You know how sometimes you need a story that reflects the darkness of a cold sunless winter day? A story so covered in gritty loathsomeness that it’s devoid of all hope and light? A story that doesn’t just wallow in darkness, but embraces it like a long dead lover? I’ve got just the book you’re looking for to curl up with on those bleak winter nights.
The Monster of Elendhaven is a masterwork in dark gothic fantasy by Shirley Jackson award nominated debut author Jennifer Giesbrecht. A wonderfully lush and gruesome fairy tale with Poe overtones and a little old gods from the deep Lovecraftian sensibility thrown in for good measure. The main characters are monsters of different sorts that are irrevocably drawn together by forces unknown. Odds are, even as twisted and sick as they are, you’ll fall in love with Elendhaven’s monsters just as surely as they fall in love/hate with each other.
The plot and the plotting.
Hundreds of years ago the North Pole was ripped asunder by dark magic. Five centuries later, nestled in the black poisoned waters of the northern polar sea, the polluted city of Elendhaven metastasizes. This is where the creature Johann was… born? Created? Or perhaps spawned is a more proper term. For Johann is far more than a mere man. He is a monster; birthed on the sharp rocks at the edge of the freezing tainted sea and lives and hunts in Elendhaven’s soot-covered shadows. His only impulse, to survive and to kill. Both of which he does extremely well.
That is until Johann meets (okay, stalks and then tries to kill) one Florian Leickenbloom, a fine young upstanding member of the community who also happens to be an illegal magician with a cryptic and macabre past. This meeting will change both their lives, intertwining them in ways unexpected and unforeseen. Florian’s grim past leaves him craving revenge, and Johann may be the one person who is able to give it to him. The world would be wise to beware.
Never was a story of more woe than this of the monster Johann and his dandy Florian.
If you’re wondering whether or not this is a love story, it definitely isn’t. Although, it still gets a bloody LGBTQ stamp of approval, especially if you like your LGBTQ characters a little more on the twisted side. It’s a story of obsession, revenge, and maybe just a touch of destiny. It’s weird, wild, bloody, grim, darkly humorous in spots and brutally sadistic in others. Giesbrecht’s lyrical prose puts you on the grime covered streets of Elendhaven stalking prey alongside its human and inhuman monsters, and for a brief 159 pages you can become totally immersed in the wretched industrial city reminiscent of a frozen version of Jack the Ripper’s London. Possibly one of the best books I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year and definitely worth a look.(5 / 5)
What Have We Done: Alex Finlay Produces Another Hit
- Jenna: A stay at home mom with a secret assassin past
- Donnie: An alcoholic rock star
- Nico: An executive producer of a reality television show
They all have a past, but who is out to get them?
Jenna, Donnie, and Nico share a troubled past. They were all orphans who lived at Savior House — which is much less savior, much more terror. When their friend Benny, a famous judge, is murdered and the FBI comes looking, Jenna, Donnie, and Nico must race against the clock to figure out who is targeting them.
From the author of The Night Shift, which I reviewed here, I would expect nothing less than what Finlay has delivered. Finlay notoriously creates stories with palpable thrill and spine-tingling revelations.
I particularly enjoyed the character of Jenna. She is a reformed assassin living a normal life as a new stepmom. When she is called in to make a hit and her family is threatened, she goes badass mom on ’em. While I still thought Donnie and Nico as characters were engaging, it was nothing for what I felt for Jenna.
Also, major props to Finlay for creating a character that kills with a very unique weapon. Read it to find out more!(5 / 5)
“The Writing Retreat” Gone Bad: Julia Bartz’s Debut
Keeping it all in the family, Julia Bartz’s The Writing Retreat is the debut novel of the sister of Andrea Bartz, author of We Were Never Here, which I reviewed here.
I was much more impressed with The Writing Retreat than I was We Were Never Here.
Five up and coming female writers under 30 are invited to a writing retreat hosted by the reclusive and acclaimed horror writer Rosa Vallo. Rosa reveals the details of the retreat: each writer must complete a full length novel from scratch over the next month. The best novel wins a multi-million dollar publishing deal with Rosa.
Suddenly, the retreat turns into a nightmare when one writer goes missing in the snowy terrain outside.
The novel hinges on friendships in turmoil and has a focus on LGBT+ representation as well as interpersonal female relationships. The novel explores the dark publishing world and the search for fame and the Great American Novel.
This novel is atmospheric and intellectual, page turning, and the English major’s required reading. I absorbed this novel and found Julia Bartz’s writing and conceptual chops to be leagues above her sister’s.
Ths novel releases on February 21, 2023 and it should be in your cart right now.(5 / 5)
Buy it here!
A Murder in Reverse: “Wrong Place Wrong Time”
“A brilliantly genre-bending, mind-twisting answer to the question How far would you go to save your child?” — Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Jen watches her son murder a stranger. Stab him to death. She and her husband, Kelly, watch as their son Todd is taken into custody.
The next morning, Jen wakes up and it’s yesterday. Jen knows that at the end of the night, her son kills someone. She is determined to stop it.
Jen goes further and further back in time trying to discover why Todd murdered a stranger and how to stop it.
This book is twisty. Right when you think you know the ending, something else is there to prove that the story is more multifaceted than that. While the premise of the novel is simple, Gillian McAllister elevates a simple concept with deep, dark twists.
It is best that you don’t know too much going into this one. For fans of Blake Crouch, this is such a good thriller with time travelling vibes.(4 / 5)